Monday, October 5, 2009

The Weekly Strike-10/5-10/11

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike, where we preview the upcoming week in politics. Make sure you remember to leave some comments!

THE WHITE HOUSE: After a week of focusing on foreign affairs and the Olympic Games, the President returns his focus to his signature domestic policy issue, health reform. Behind the scenes, the President will be keeping a watchful eye on the Senate Finance committee. Chairman Baucus (D-MT) has scheduled a vote on his amended bill for tomorrow. You can count 9 out of the 10 Republicans as definitely opposed to the bill. I would put Olympia Snowe (R-ME) at about 50/50 as to whether she supports Baucus' legislation. As for the Democrats, many of the 13 of them are not enthusiastic that the bill leaves out key provisions, like the public option, but as of yet, no Democrats on the committee have said they'll vote against the bill. Senators Rockefeller (WV) and Wyden (OR) are the too most displeased Democrats on the committee. They have thus far not stated whether they support Baucus' bill or not. If they both voted no, and all Republicans including Snowe voted no, the bill would fail to pass the committee. My view is that the Democrats should just get the bill out of committee to get the ball rolling. The most important changes to the bill will come when Majority Leader Reid combines it with the more progressive Senate HELP committee bill. We can't get to that point until the bill clears the Senate Finance committee.

President Obama starts his health care push this week with an event today with doctors at the White House.

The President will also spend a good amount of time this week on the other most complicated issue of his Presidency, the War in Afghanistan. The President has scheduled two meetings with his national security team to discuss future strategy in the ongoing conflict. From the comments of National Security Advisor James Jones this weekend, it seems like an increase in troops is not inevitable. Even if more troops are sent to the region, it is likely they will be fighting under a new strategy. After more violence this weekend brought casualty levels among American soldiers even higher, I find it unlikely that President Obama won't seek significant changes in policy. My recommendation would be a scaled back presence, with a more targeted focus of rooting out Al Qaeda on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border and expedited training of Afghan security forces.

THE HOUSE: It is another quiet week in Congress, as members continue to do the bulk of work behind closed doors (namely, negotiating health care legislation). The House will vote on various suspension bills Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday evening and Thursday, the House will vote on the conference report on the Agriculture appropriations bill. This will be the 3rd of 12 appropriations bills that have emerged from conference. It is possible we'll see a conference report on the Homeland Security appropriations bill as well, although it has been held up due to disagreements on Gitmo detainee transfer policies. The House will also vote on a bill that was defeated last week under suspension of the rules that deals with recycling Bay Area water. As a native San Franciscan, I'll be one of the few people in the country rooting hard for this bill to pass! Finally, it is possible that we see a conference report on the Defense Authorization bill, which sets out defense policy guidelines through the next two fiscal years. I would guess that we're more likely to see that bill come to the floor next week.

THE SENATE: The Senate still has 6 more appropriations bills to pass, and if they keep up this snail-like pace, they might not be able to finish by the end of the year. Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on remaining amendments and final passage of the Defense appropriations bill. Next up will be appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and related agencies. All appropriations bills, of course, have already passed the House. The Senate also needs to vote on the conference report accompanying the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill, which the House approved last Thursday. If the Senate approves it, it will be the 2nd appropriations bill sent to President Obama for his signature.

I could complain for hours about the United States Senate, but I'll spare our loyal readers. I just don't understand how they don't schedule votes for Mondays and Fridays considering how many House-passed bills are awaiting Senate approval. Majority Leader Reid needs to get with the program, fast.

That's it for this morning, we'll see you tonight!

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